USC’s Hire of Andy Enfield? A Slam DunkPosted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2013
More than two months after USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neill at midseason, the Trojans have hired a replacement. And I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a name that was mentioned by anybody among the list of possible choices in the hours and days following O’Neill’s abrupt end-of-employment. No, former Florida Gulf Coast head coach and new USC hire Andy Enfield’s rise has been fast and sweet. You know Enfield’s story by now. Bounced around the NBA a bit as an assistant coach, spent some time as a minority owner of a successful start-up, married a model, wound up as an assistant coach under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, then has spent the last two seasons at the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast. And, up until about two weeks ago, 99.9% of the country had never heard of the guy. But, a pair of wild and exciting NCAA Tournament wins out of the 15-hole later, he was the hottest young coach in America and certainly due for a significant step up in pay and in prestige.
Which is where USC comes in; despite canning O’Neill in mid-January ostensibly in an effort to get a head start on their coaching search, it appeared that athletic director Pat Haden had struck out on his first handful of targets, with guys like Jamie Dixon, Josh Pastner and even Steve Alford taking themselves out of the running. In part due to that and in part due to the need to make a big splash with its hire, Enfield winds up as just about the absolute perfect hire for Haden. He’s got the NBA background, he runs a fun style, he’s got the hot wife and he’s a popular name. It’s a slam dunk for a USC program with little history of success.
Sure, he still has a lot to prove. He’s never coached at a big-time program before. He’s never coached on the West Coast and has few contacts there. And he’ll have to show he can succeed over the course of a season rather than over the course of a weekend. But for a major conference program with absolutely no buzz about it, this hire creates buzz. You already hear the talk about “if he can run that style with bargain barrel recruits, what can he do with choice Los Angeles-area recruits?” And it makes perfect sense. The reason FGCU won over the nation was not just because they pulled off a couple of upsets in the NCAA Tournament; it is the style with which they won. And as we well know, Los Angeles is as much about style as is it about results. As an added bonus, USC fans can break out the fun fact that Enfield, in just two seasons at a low-major program, has taken his team to as many Sweet Sixteens as UCLA’s new hire – Alford – has in 18 seasons, with 14 of those years coming at high-major schools. While Alford has had more sustained regular season success, Enfield’s the guy with more March success.
Priority one for Enfield: get some sort of talent into USC. Of the seven guys on last year’s team who averaged more than four points per game, three of them are graduating seniors and a fourth, Dewayne Dedmon, is questionable for a return after he was suspended for the Pac-12 Tournament because of a brawl in Pullman. That leaves guys like J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley and Omar Oraby as the pillars of next year’s Trojans team. There are four incoming recruits committed to USC, but none of them are regarded as high-impact players. In other words, despite the excitement generated by such a hire, Enfield’s going to have to prove right away that there is substance to match his style. It appears he’ll have one of the least-talented rosters in the Pac-12 next season, so he’ll have to show he can coach his guys up and win some games despite being over-matched in talent. He’ll have to get out on that recruiting trail immediately and start reeling in the type of players if he wants to turn USC into Dunk City West.